Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday said the government does not have the number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists killed in the IAF strike in Pakistan’s Balakot and attacked those questioning its veracity, insisting people who do that are indulging in politics over the valour of the armed forces.
He said the number of fatalities at the JeM terror training camp will be known some day.
Singh, however, claimed that the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) has informed the security establishment about the presence of around 300 “active” mobile phones at the training camp site before the IAF bombing.
Charging the opposition with doing politics over the “valour and sacrifice” of defence personnel, the minister advised the Congress, which been demanding proof of the retaliatory assault and casualties in the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide bombing that left over 44 CRPF men dead, to go to Pakistan and count the bodies if they indeed wanted to ascertain the number of fatalities.
“Some leaders of other political parties are asking us questions about how many terrorists were killed in the IAF strike. Some day, it will be known that how many were killed. Leaders in Pakistan know in their hearts how many perished in the IAF attack,” Singh told a public gathering after inaugurating an electronic border guarding project of the BSF on the Indo-Bangladesh border here.
He mocked the opposition over its demand for the number of fatalities, wondering why its leaders were asking “kitne mare, kitne mare?” (how many were killed?)”
“Should our Air Force personnel count the bodies after the attack — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…? What is this joke,” he asked.
The home minister referred to Indian Air Force chief B S Dhanoa’s media interaction on Monday where he said the force does not count bodies and is concerned only about whether the target was hit.
Sidestepping a raging debate on the number of casualties in the Balakot strike, Dhanoa had said it was for the government to provide details of the terrorists.
Singh noted that the NTRO, the technical surveillance organisation of the government, had said that 300 mobile phones were active at the scene of Balakot bombing before the IAF action.
“Now, imagine how many were killed. We do not need to tell this number. I would like to ask if these mobile phones were used by trees or people were there. Now, will you (Congress and other opposition parties) not believe the NTRO also? Strange questions are being asked.”
He said politics should not be done only to form a government but to build the country.
“If my Congress friends feel that they should be told about the number of terrorists killed, then they should go to Pakistan and count the dead,” Singh said.
He said the prime minister took a firm decision after coming to know of the Pulwama attack.
“Our government is firm that the one who looks at us with an evil eye or tries to destabilise us, we will not forgive them. Enough is enough. The prime minister yesterday said that we will eliminate terror bases even if these are in hell. We cannot allow anybody to play with the lives of our people,” he said.
Asserting that the Modi government was committed to the safety and security of the people, he said the country should be proud of the defence forces.
For the BJP, the country is infinitely more important than winning elections, he said, targeting those accusing the Modi government of trying to score political brownie points over the Pulwama attack and the IAF’s retributive assault in Balakot. Peace, he said, was a prerequisite for progress.
The sparring between the government and the opposition intensified after BJP chief Amit Shah on Sunday claimed that “more than 250” terrorists were killed in the operation, even when the government is yet to give out an official count of the terrorists killed.
“After Uri, our forces went into Pakistan and carried out surgical strikes. They avenged the death of our soldiers. After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, what will happen? But under (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s leadership, the government carried out an air strike after the 13th day and killed more than 250 terrorists,” Amit Shah said at a public rally in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad.
Defending Shah, Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh on Tuesday said, “the count was an estimate based on people who were housed in the buildings that were hit”.
Since the strikes, the opposition has raised questions on the number of casualties put out by government sources.
Following the Pulwama terror attack, India carried out “non-military pre-emptive” airstrikes targeting the JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early on February 26 reportedly killing a “very large number” of terrorists.
(With PTI inputs)